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February 1, 2023

Private Health Insurance Ireland: What You Need to Know

Private health insurance in Ireland offers faster access to high-quality care. Compare providers and benefits and discover employer-provided options.

Aine Kavanagh

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Aine Kavanagh

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Despite Ireland's public healthcare system, many opt for private coverage to access faster and better-quality care.

Most employers also offer health insurance as an employee benefit.

Keep reading to learn everything about private health insurance in Ireland. We'll also discuss how companies can easily manage employee health insurance.

What Is Private Health Insurance?

Private health insurance is a contract that ensures the policyholder receives medical coverage from a private entity (insurance provider) and not the government. 

It covers expenses people incur when seeking private medical treatment.

These health insurance plans are usually available on an individual or group basis — including coverage for families and employees.

Looking to offer private health insurance to your employees? 

Use Kota! Our innovative benefits management platform helps you manage employees' private health insurance plans effortlessly.

What Are the Types of Private Health Insurance in Ireland?

Health insurance plans in Ireland commonly offer these benefits:

  • Cash benefit: This plan offers a fixed cash reimbursement for medical events like hospitalisation and surgery that isn't linked to inpatient costs.

  • Outpatient cover: This policy covers treatments received that don't require overnight hospitalisation. For example, coverage for general practitioner (GP) visits, minor diagnostic tests, and emergency care.

  • Health insurance: A health insurance plan covers inpatient hospital costs and (usually) outpatient costs either fully or partially.

  • Dental and optical cover: Some health insurance plans offer additional coverage for dental and optical services, which may include routine check-ups, treatments, and surgeries.

  • Overseas medical cover: This covers medical treatment needed while travelling abroad, whether for work or holidays —  best for employees who travel frequently.

Policyholders can obtain combinations of these covers and customise plans based on their needs. 

For example, some health insurance plans cover semi-private rooms in public hospitals. But more expensive plans may provide coverage for private rooms in private or high-tech hospitals

The good news?

With Kota, employees can pick the health insurance plan that best suits their needs and customise it with add-ons, such as:

  • Maternity Extra: Cover for early pregnancy scans and ante-natal care, and more

  • Travel Extra: Cover for travel vaccines, free annual multi-trip travel insurance policy

They can stick with their employer’s budget or pay more (out of pocket) for a higher plan.

Who Offers Private Health Insurance in Ireland?

Ireland has four private health insurance providers:

  • Irish Life Health

  • VHI Healthcare

  • Laya Healthcare

  • HSF Health Plan (only provides cash benefit plans)

Let’s explore their key offerings:

1. Irish Life Health

Irish Life Health (ILH) was formed in 2016 following the acquisition and merger of Aviva Health and GloHealth by Irish Life. 

As of April 2024, ILH offers around 165 plans catering to individual and family health needs.

Core Coverage 

  • Cover for public, private, and hi-tech hospitals

  • Consultant fees and diagnostic tests

  • Maternity benefits

  • Psychiatric treatment


  • Dental and optical cover

  • Additional coverage for maternity and newborn care

  • Physiotherapy and alternative therapies

  • Emergency ambulance services

Co-payments and Excess Charges

  • Standard excess fees apply depending on the plan, typically ranging from €75 to €500.

  • Co-payments may be required for certain outpatient services and medical procedures.

Find out what Excess in Health Insurance means and how it differs from co-payment.

Popular plans

  • Kick-Off Plan (Suitable for employee benefits package)

  • BeneFit plan

  • 4D Health plans

  • Family Value Plan

Want to offer ILH plans to your team? Kota is the way to go!

Kota partners with ILH  to offer your Irish team compliant private health insurance plans, simplifying your benefits management.  

2. VHI Healthcare

VHI Healthcare, established in 1957, is Ireland's oldest and largest health insurance provider.

As of April 2024, VHI offers over 80 plans. 

However, it announced changes to its plans around January 2024, including discontinuing popular VHI plans like Health Plus Access and Health Plus Excess. These plans will not be available to new members starting 1 May 2024.

Overall, these changes are expected to affect approximately 130,000 members.

Core Coverage 

  • Cover for public and private hospitals

  • Consultant fees and diagnostic tests

  • Access to VHI SwiftCare clinics

  • Cover for a wide range of treatments and surgeries


  • Dental and optical cover

  • Maternity benefits

  • International health insurance

  • Health screening, mental health and wellness programs

Co-payments and Excess Charges

  • Varies by plan; standard excess typically ranges from €75 to €300.

  • Specific co-payments apply for outpatient services and certain procedures.

Popular plans

  • Company plan

  • HealthPlus plans

  • Private Medical Insurance or PMI plans

  • EnhancedCare plans

3. Laya Healthcare

Laya Healthcare (formerly Quinn Healthcare) has been providing health insurance in Ireland since 1997. 

In 2024, they offer over 40 plans across their range of health insurance products.

Core Coverage 

  • Public and private hospital access

  • Consultant fees and diagnostic tests

  • Outpatient benefits like GP visits and physiotherapy

  • Cover for scans and diagnostic imaging


  • Health screenings and wellness programs

  • Dental and optical procedures

  • Complementary therapies

Co-payments and Excess Charges

  • Standard excess fees apply, generally ranging from €75 to €300.

  • Co-payments are required for some outpatient services.

Popular plans

  • Advantage Suite

  • Assure Suite

  • Company Care Suite

4. Hospital Saturday Fund (HSF)

HSF Health Plan is a not-for-profit health cash plan provider that has been operating in Ireland since 1991. They offer various plans that provide cash benefits for everyday healthcare expenses.

Core Coverage 

  • Cash reimbursements for hospital stays and surgeries

  • Maternity cash benefits

  • Cash reimbursements for GP visits and prescriptions

  • Cover for specialist consultations and diagnostic tests


Increased cash benefits for certain treatments

Co-payments and Excess Charges

No excess charges or co-payments

Popular plans

  • HSF Individual Level 1

  • HSF Family Level 2

  • HSF Corporate Plan (Suitable for employee benefits package)

In addition, you have health insurance providers who deal only with particular employee groups.

Their health insurance plans are called restricted membership schemes and usually serve groups like health services employees or Gardaí. 

All private health insurance providers in Ireland are registered with the Health Insurance Authority (HIA). The HIA monitors these providers to ensure policyholders get access to a minimum level of benefits.

What Are the Minimum Level of Benefits Provided in Irish Health Insurance?

That depends on the service provider. 

Suppose you subscribe to a plan that offers inpatient hospital services (like Kota’s Irish Life Health Plans). 

In that case, you get access to a minimum level of benefits for:

  • Inpatient treatment: Every Kota plan (except the Kick-off Plan) covers all room and consultant charges at public hospitals

  • Outpatient treatment: Kota fully covers benefits like a digital doctor, nurse on call, sexual health screening, and metabolic testing.

  • Convalescence: Kota offers a minimum of €26 for 14 days as a convalescence benefit.

  • Maternity benefits: The minimum benefit you get via Kota is €385 for public hospital charges.

  • Psychiatric treatment: Kota supports a minimum cover of 100 days. 

  • Substance abuse treatment: Minimum cover of 91 days per 5 years offered via Kota. 

What’s more?

Policyholders get a minimum level of accommodation — a semi-private room in a public hospital.

Can You Get Tax Relief for Irish Private Health Insurance Premiums?

Anyone with a private health insurance plan from an approved insurer can get tax relief on their premiums.

People don't have to claim tax relief from The Irish Tax and Customs Authority (aka Revenue).

Instead, you get it as a reduction in the insurance premium. This is called Tax Relief at Source (TRS).

For all health insurance policies, tax relief is provided at 20%.

However, for plans started or renewed after 16 October 2013, relief is limited to the lower of either:

  • 20% of the premium paid or 

  • 20% of €1,000 per adult and €500 per child

Anyone under 21 is considered a child for health insurance tax relief purposes.

But look:

TRS doesn't apply in certain instances.

For example, if an employer pays health insurance premiums for their employees, the premium is considered a benefit-in-kind, and taxes are due on that amount.

Employees can directly claim tax relief from Revenue when the premium is regarded as a benefit-in-kind.

Who Gets Access to Private Health Insurance in Ireland?

Short answer: Everyone.

Insurance providers must follow three principles when offering health insurance plans in Ireland:  

  • Open Enrolment

  • Lifetime Cover

  • Community Rating

Let's dig deeper into these principles:

1. Open Enrolment

Health insurance companies must accept anyone who wants to join a plan regardless of sex, age, or health status.

However, they can impose waiting periods of up to 26 weeks and limit the level of coverage based on policyholders’ health conditions.

Restricted membership schemes must accept any person qualified to join the plan.

Check out our guide on the Waiting Periods in Irish Health Insurance to determine what applies to you. 

2. Lifetime Cover

Lifetime cover means an insurance company cannot refuse to provide cover to any policyholder who joins a plan and pays their premiums. 

Want to switch insurers?

You can do so without loss of cover, provided you complete the switch within 13 weeks.

Suppose you served a waiting period due to age or a pre-existing medical condition when you first took out private health insurance. In that case, you don't have to wait again.

3. Community Rating

The community rating principle ensures that insurance companies charge the same rate for a service from everyone — regardless of age, sex, and health status.

However, there may be exceptions, such as:

  • Reduced charges for people under 25.

  • Retirees can have specific health insurance arrangements within their company's scheme. 

  • Costs for children are usually reduced by about 50%.

What is Lifetime Community Rating?

LCR means your health insurance premium depends on your age when you first bought health insurance. The longer you wait, the higher the premium.

For example, if you first bought health insurance at 25, you'd still pay the premium of a 25-year-old when you turn 40. However, if you first bought health insurance at 40, you'd have to pay more than the premium of a 25-year-old.

Learn more about Lifetime Community Rating (LCR) and how it works in our in-depth guide.

Now, if you’re an employer, you must be wondering…

Why Should You Provide Private Health Insurance to Irish Employees?

Ireland's public healthcare system serves Irish residents, European Union (EU)/European Economic Area (EEA) citizens, and Swiss nationals. 

Still, many employers in Ireland provide private health insurance plans for their teams.

According to the Health Insurance Authority Market Report 2023, 2.48 million people in Ireland, accounting for 47% of the population, have private health insurance.

Here’s why:

1. It Provides Better Medical Coverage to Your Team

According to the Health Service Executive (HSE), a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows you to access many public health services.

Most services are free, but sometimes you may incur a fee — like when visiting a GP or purchasing drugs and medicines. 

But a major problem with public healthcare?

The long waitlists! 

Additionally, patients often have limited options when choosing their healthcare providers, including a limited choice of consultants and hospitals

A private health insurance plan can help you skip the queue and receive priority care. It can also help you receive care at a private or high-tech hospital with access to specialised equipment. 

2. It Can Boost Job Satisfaction

A Glassdoor Economic Research survey found that health insurance as an employee benefit correlated highest with job satisfaction.

Companies that focus on their employees' health show that they value their employees — improving their trust in the organisation.

Providing health insurance can make employees more satisfied with their jobs. Since it's one less thing for them to worry about, they can instead focus on improving your business' bottom line.

2. It Could Help Improve Productivity

Sick employees severely impact your company's productivity.

But it's not just the cost of sick days you have to deal with.

You also must consider reduced productivity — when employees work while recovering from illnesses or have to look after a sick family member.

How does health insurance help here?

Employees have fast and easy access to better healthcare and can decide where to receive the best treatment. This results in a healthier team that calls in sick less often, leading to more productive and profitable results for your business. 

3. You Can Retain More Employees

Private health insurance helps build a healthy workforce and improves loyalty, contributing to employee retention.

Prioritising retention is essential since replacing employees can be very costly for companies — especially small businesses.

Private health insurance can increase employees' sense of security about their jobs. This can help you retain employees for longer and reduce employee turnover costs.

4. It Could Help Overtake Your Competition

Providing private health insurance to your team could set your business apart.

Job seekers tend to look for places that offer more than a salary and fringe benefits — especially in an industry dominated by small businesses.

When potential employees see that you provide health insurance, you have a better chance of landing highly skilled and motivated employees.

Okay, employee health insurance is essential. 

But how do I manage each employee’s private health insurance?

That's where Kota comes in.

Use Kota to Manage Private Health Insurance for Your Irish Employees

Kota is a digital employee benefits platform that helps you manage private health insurance across global teams.

You can pay and scale your benefits as needed and give employees complete flexibility over their health insurance packages.

Kota supports:

  • Access to insurance plans in 30+ countries.

  • Easy integration with your payroll & HR software. 

  • Access to reputed financial institutions and insurance providers. 

  • Automated, scalable benefits with minimal paperwork. 

  • Benchmarked data by comparing your benefits package to other local plans. 

  • Flexibility for individual employees to control their options

How Does Kota Work?

  • Set up plans with various contribution levels on Kota.

  • Add your employees to these plans.

  • Your employees then choose the plans and benefits they need.

  • They can stick to the budget you’ve set or opt for higher plans by paying more out of their pockets.

It's that simple!

Join Kota and enrol your team in minutes!

Yonder Technology Limited, trading as Kota, is based in Dublin and is a Tied Intermediary of Tailored Finance Limited for Insurance and Pensions.

18 FAQs About Private Health Insurance Ireland

Here are some common questions employers and policyholders have about Irish health insurance:

A. For Employers in Ireland

1. What is the Health Insurance Levy?

The government charges the health insurance levy on every health insurance policy.

It accounts for about 33% of the total insurance premium.

2. How Are Health Insurance Providers Regulated?

The Central Bank of Ireland regulates health insurers financially, while the Health Insurance Authority regulates the legal and statutory aspects. 

3. Do My Employees Need Private Health Insurance for Maternity Services?

The government’s Maternity & Infant Care program gives all expectant mothers in Ireland access to GP and hospital care.

Expectant mothers are entitled to free outpatient, inpatient, emergency, and accident services in public hospitals throughout pregnancy and birth.

But here’s the thing:

Giving your employees access to health insurance can greatly improve their maternity experience since they’ll get quicker access to better quality care. 

If you want to manage employees’ maternity benefits hassle-free, Kota is the only platform you need. 

4. Does Health Insurance Cover Overseas Travel?

All health insurance plans cover medical emergencies abroad.

However, if you travel frequently, you should get a health plan that specifically covers your travel insurance needs.

All Irish Life Health 4D plans offered through Kota have a travel add-on that could be perfect for most of your travelling needs.

5. What is a Restricted Membership Scheme?

A Restricted Membership Scheme is a health insurance plan that is only available to specific types of employees. For example, this could be a plan open only to Gardaí or health workers.

6. Should I Insure Every Employee?

There are no legal obligations to provide health insurance to every employee. You can decide to cover employees based on their seniority or role.

However, many employers offer private health insurance to all their employees.

7. How Much Should I Spend on Private Health Insurance for Employees?

How much you spend on life insurance per employee depends on what you include in your package.

The average annual premium for Irish health insurance per adult was €1,594 in January 2024.

Depending on your package with Kota, a monthly health insurance premium could start from as little as €59.17 per month for the Kick-Off Plan.

8. What Should My Employee Health Insurance Plan Include?

Based on your budget, you can start with outpatient services coverage and increase it to cover inpatient hospital charges.

Optionally, you can add dental and vision benefits to the health insurance plan.

Ideally, you should focus on the benefits from which your team would derive the best value.

B. For Policyholders in Ireland

1. How Can I Save Money on a Private Health Insurance Plan?

Some ways you can save money on your insurance plan include:

  • Look for quotes from various providers.

  • Pay an excess on every claim.

  • Cover your children under a different plan. 

If employed, you could save on health insurance by opting for cheaper corporate plans offering similar benefits.

Since all plans offered by insurers are available to the public, you can directly contact the provider to inquire about corporate plans not advertised on their website.

You can also downgrade if you don’t need the full benefits listed in your current plan.

But remember: You will be subject to a waiting period if you decide to upgrade your plan again.

2. Does Private Health Insurance Cover Hearing Aids and Surgical Appliances?

Some plans cover this equipment, but it's always best to check with your provider.

Most providers will give you a list of covered appliances when requested.

3. Why Do People Change Health Insurance Plans?

People change their health insurance plans for many reasons. 

For example:

  • Changes in plans for the future, like expecting children. 

  • The need for better value cover. 

  • As an extra precaution against unexpected illnesses. 

  • When the existing plan doesn't provide enough coverage. 

  • When the level of cover is too much, and downgrading helps save money.

4. How Can I Switch My Private Health Insurance Plan?

Here’s how you can switch your insurance plan:

  • Review your current coverage, benefits, and costs.

  • Use comparison tools to evaluate different plans available in the market.

  • Check for any waiting periods for new benefits and any penalties for switching.

  • Contact potential new insurers 45-60 days before your policy's expiry.

  • Submit your application to the new insurer for decision.

  • Switch on the renewal date to avoid penalties.

5. What Should I Do When Switching Health Insurance Providers

Go through all the policy documents to understand your level of coverage.

You must also cancel the direct debit made to the old insurer.

If you find the new cover unsatisfactory, you can cancel it within 14 days and get a full refund.

6. Can Medical Card Holders Get Private Health Insurance?

You can hold medical cards and receive private health insurance

When you visit your GP or get admitted to the hospital, you can decide whether to be considered a public or private patient.

7. Does Age Affect Insurance Premiums?

The health insurance industry in Ireland follows the Lifetime Community Rating principle, which considers the age at which you first joined the private health insurance market — not your current age.

Here’s an overview of its guidelines:

  • A loading charge will apply to the premium for anyone first obtaining health insurance after 34 or for anyone whose insurance lapses for 13 weeks or more when they're over 34.

  • Group scheme members might have their premiums reduced by up to 10%.

  • Children's premiums are 50% of the adult premium.

  • Anyone aged 18-25 may receive a reduced premium.

  • Retired members of restricted membership schemes may pay a reduced premium. 

8. What Happens if a Health Insurance Plan Lapses For More Than 13 Weeks?

You will have to serve initial waiting periods again if your plan lapses for over 13 weeks. If you're over 34, a loading amount will also apply to your premium. 

9. What Is The Difference Between Public and Private Patients?

Here are a few differences between public patients and private patients. 

Public patients:

  • Don't have to pay any fees or public hospital in-patient charges (which were €80 per day, up to a maximum of €800 per year) since they were abolished on 17 April 2023.

  • Medical cardholders don't have to pay anything at public hospitals.

  • Don't have the right to choose their consultant.

Private patients:

  • Can receive treatment in a private or semi-private room at a public or private hospital.

  • The insurer or the patient has to bear the cost of hospital accommodation and treatment.

  • Have to pay all consultants' fees.

  • Private room charges can go up to thousands of euros per day since private hospitals can set their charges.

10. Should I Sign a Private Insurance Patient Form?

With the 2013 Health Amendment Act, private health insurance holders are charged a private rate for public treatment when they’re admitted through Accident and Emergency to public hospitals.

This happens when patients sign the Private Insurance Patient Form and waive their rights to public treatment in a public hospital.

If you ever face this issue, ensure you have a guarantee to receive a private or semi-private room or other additional benefits when you sign the waiver form. If you're convinced that the treatment is the same regardless of whether you sign the form, you can refuse to sign.

11. What Are the Health Insurance Requirements and Options for Students in Ireland?

All students, whether from the European Union (EU) or non-EU countries, should have health insurance while studying in Ireland.

  • For non-EU students, private health insurance is mandatory for visa and immigration purposes, covering from arrival until departure.

  • EU students should bring a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) from their home country. But they’re also advised to have private insurance for additional coverage.

Aine Kavanagh

Article written by

Aine Kavanagh

👋🏻 Hi I'm Aine, Head of Customer Success at Kota. Whether you're a Kota customer, a Kota user, or you're just browsing, I hope to help educate and empower those who want to know more about owning their own benefits, and building financial autonomy 📚

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